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On my recent trip, I managed to get in a lot of reading on my Kindle. On airplanes, waiting for airplanes, waiting for the bus to load, waiting in lobbies for everybody to show up to leave, and at night when I couldn’t sleep. A fun book was Mr. Mac and Me, by Esther Freud. It takes place in England in 1914. In a time and place where a 13-year old boy has a lot of freedom. Although the war is looming, this little village is relatively quiet and safe, as life used to be. Boys will be boys, and he enjoys sort-of spying on people, especially people he doesn’t know well. He imagines that a man who arrives in town to rent a house with his paints and easels, might be a spy. Thus begins a story that starts from that premise, but eventually takes you into a very special friendship that develops between the man, Mr. Mac, his wife, and this boy. The story is absolutely charming. War brings some brutal truths for everyone in the village, yet this friendship flourishes. Great book.

Occasionally I’ll latch onto a book about food or restaurants. This one, The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal, is a romance (not a sticky sweet one) about a youngish woman (and her dog) who take a big leap to Colorado when she’s offered a job as a chef. The restaurant is fraught with some issues, but the author weaves in a romance, her skills as a leader in the kitchen, throws in some recipes (that I have yet to extract from my Kindle pages, that I want to try) along with it, and you have a book that held my interest all the way through. Formulaic, I suppose, but it’s a cute story. Books about restaurants always divulge some new tangle of how a kitchen runs. I enjoyed the read.

If you haven’t already read it, you are missing a really good and insightful book, Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly. I was riveted from page one, all the way through to the end. O’Reilly has a very engaging way of re-telling history and making it ever-so readable and interesting. He weaves people’s stories, ones  you likely haven’t read or heard, into his narrative, to give you such a sense of place. You can just feel how these soldiers, pilots, prisoners and seamen made their mark, but likely all unsung heroes. It’s a must-read, it really is.

Having read some of Kent Haruf’s other books, I read Our Souls at Night. A lonely widow decides to invite a neighbor man, also a lonely widower, if he’d like to come to her home, at night, to spend the night. I simply can’t tell you anything else because it would give away the story. This isn’t a story about s-x, but about two lonely people who come together for friendship and companionship. It’s very sweet, not twee, but sweet. You really feel for both of these older people. Read it.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on March 11th, 2016.

apple_bread_crumb_pudding

Every so often I tell you – MAKE THIS. Here’s one of those occasions. It may not look all that special, but if you’ve read my blog long enough to trust my advice, then this is a dessert you need to make.

A few weeks ago I had a luncheon at my house. It was a fund-raising event for my P.E.O. chapter. I do some kind of an event every year and ladies in my P.E.O. sisterhood sign up and pay money to come to my house for whatever it is I’ve organized. The money is donated to the chapter (and money sent to Cottey College, in Iowa, to help support that small, but growing women’s college). Another sister had suggested that I borrow a DVD from her from her collection of The Great Courses. Renowned lecturers and professors present 45+ minute videos about a variety of things, from history, to science, to literature. Alice had recommended I look at the history segments and choose one that the group (10 of us) would watch.

So, I planned the lunch. I chose a video about the far-reaching effects of the Opium Wars of the 1600s (which affected world trade and still does today). I’d intended to choose something about American history, but found the Opium War one a bit more interesting. Nevertheless, I planned a menu revolving around old-American recipes. Months before my co-hostess and I divided up the food to prepare and invitations sent out, etc. Then, bless her heart, Linda, got sick and ended up in the hospital, so I hosted the event alone and doing all the food. I was a bit pooped-out by the end of the day, I’ll tell you! My friend is doing okay, is home and now taking new heart medication.

After watching the video, I did a sherry tasting. Staying true to the old-America theme, I knew that gentile women, back in the 1800s would only have partaken of sherry in the “drawing room” or the “parlour.” So I dug out some small liqueur glasses (at one time, years ago, I had some sherry glasses, but I don’t know what happened to them). I bought a bottle of sherry for this, but then thought – oh, I should look in my liquor closet and see what I have. Hmmm. Nothing less than 7 bottles of varying types of sherry. Two duplicates too! I do use sherry in cooking, and sometimes the recipe will call for very dry, or medium, or amontillado, or fino, etc. One of my PEO sisters helped me with the pouring while I worked a bit in the kitchen. Anyway, we progressed from very dry, to Bristol Cream and everything in between. Most of them had never tasted the different types, so they learned something. And definitely it needed to be Spanish sherry. During early America days, sherry was brought across the sea in huge casks on ships.

We sat down for the lunch, and I explained to everyone about the history of Country Captain, the main dish I had decided to make and one I posted about in 2010. It’s a chicken stew, of sorts, that originated in India, but came to the Americas via Savannah. It’s a mild curry dish loaded with bell peppers and onions, then topped with condiments (this time I used toasted coconut, toasted almonds and fresh bananas). It’s served over white rice.

Then I served this dessert. It originally appeared in a cookbook called Miss Leslie’s Complete Cookery (published in 1837) and Tori Avey, a food blogger, mostly of old time American recipe, knows from her copious research, that Mary Todd Lincoln bought the cookbook (some archive actually has the receipt of the purchase), and since it may have been her only cookbook (such books were few and far between back then) it’s assumed that either she (or the family cook) would have prepared this apple dish for the President for sure. I read Tori’s blog post to my group.

And everyone raved about it. Did I say several people asked if they could lick the plate? They did ask, but of course, no one did. I wanted to also. I’m so happy I still have a serving left which I’ll enjoy today sometime. WITH the little bit of nutmeg-almond-cream poured over it.

What’s GOOD: this dessert is just unctuous. I don’t use that word much, so you can take that to mean it’s something very special. It’s soft and warm and comforting and ever-so American like apple pie, but without all the fat from a pie crust. Do serve it with the nutmeg enhanced cream. It almost “made” the dish IMHO.

What’s NOT: it takes a bit of time to peel and slice 11 apples, but it’s SO worth the time in doing so. A real keeper of a recipe.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Apple Bread Crumb Pudding

Recipe By: From a food blog: toriavey.com
Serving Size: 12

12 small Granny Smith apples
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/4 cup unsalted butter — plus more for greasing the dish
1 1/4 cup brown sugar — [I used dark brown]
1 cup bread crumbs — (homemade crumbs from artisan bread are best)
CREAM SAUCE:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon almond extract

NOTE: If you buy artisan bread for this (recommended) pulse the crumbs in the food processor, but leave them with just a bit of texture – a few pieces of 1/4″ chunks will be fine. [I used about a third of a ciabatta loaf.]
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Peel and core the apples, then slice them very thin (use a mandoline if you have one). Place the slices in a large mixing bowl. Pour lemon juice and lemon zest over the apples along with the nutmeg. Toss the apples with a spatula till evenly coated by the lemon juice, zest, and nutmeg. [I poured the juice and zest in the bottom of the bowl, and after slicing 2 apples at a time, I used my hands to toss and coat the apples with the juice. By the end, there won’t be any juice left in the bowl – the apples will absorb it all.]
2. Chop the unsalted butter into many very small chunks.
3. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with unsalted butter. Create a single thick layer of apple slices on the bottom of the dish, covering the entire surface with apples.
4. Sprinkle a generous layer of brown sugar on top of the apples. Dot a few bits of butter across the top of the sugar, then sprinkle a thin layer of bread crumbs on top of the butter. Repeat the layering, finishing with a thin layer of bread crumbs.
5. Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes, until the edges are brown, the pudding is cooked through, and the apples are soft. Use a knife to test the apples. Serve warm with cream sauce. [If you use a different sized baking dish, it may take longer to bake – use a knife to test the apples, as the recipe indicates.]
6. SAUCE: Pour heavy cream into a small pot and warm slowly over medium heat, whisking as it warms. When it begins to boil, whisk in powdered sugar, nutmeg and almond extract. Remove from heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a serving pitcher. It will form a skin if not served immediately. [This can be made a day ahead, left out at room temp, and reheated in 200°F oven for about an hour.]
Per Serving: 339 Calories; 19g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 65mg Cholesterol; 102mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on March 12th, 2016:

    This is unique among all the old-timey apple dessert recipes I’ve come across. Definitely something I’ll want to make.

    Oh, I hope you do, Donna. So many others may just look at the recipe and go right on past, thinking it’s just like any other apple dessert, but it’s truly NOT like all the others. I want to make this again. Soon. It was so delicious! . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on March 13th, 2016:

    I think your choice of bread here–ciabatta–is inspired. I do a version of Smitten Kitchen’s scalloped tomatoes, and it is way better when I make it with ciabatta than with other breads. It absorbs the liquid but doesn’t just turn into mush–it still has some texture. I would think it would perform similarly here.

    Well, I think the original recipe called for “artisan” bread, and going to Trader Joe’s, the only one I thought could possibly equate to that was the ciabatta. And yes, it certainly has more form and texture. It’s NOT a soft bread, for sure. . . carolyn t

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